Archive for the 'Popular Culture' Category

Daniel Boulud Arrives in Miami


It is daring for Daniel Boulud to tread in Miami’s shifting sand. The city is known as the capital of cosmetic and social surgery. The celebrated and much-lauded creative genius behind Daniel’s, the Park Avenue gourmet temple, opened an affordable DB Bistro Moderne in downtown Miami’s JW Marriott Marquis.

A bistro it is not. Sweeping vistas of downtown Miami, a Fornasetti obelisk, private dining rooms, etched paper wallcovering in a rich peach color create a sleek metropolitan atmosphere. The setting offers a marked contrast to the warm and nurturing Gallic fair. The high ceilings, elegant and majestic, would work with less barbaric demographics where people refrain from talking 70 deafening decibels above normal.

The Bistro Moderne opened in November but Georgette Farkas, a glamorous and gracious hostess, decided to wait for the place to be running like clockwork before extending a kind invitation. She brought along a German wine and food expert. He lived in Barcelona and Madrid and is thoroughly familiar with Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli (actually started by German Dr Hans Schilling under French chef Jean-Louis Neichel). We also talked about the Italian pride in cucina artigionale. A Miami realtor was also there. Georgette had arranged for “Big Papa,” Daniel Boulud, to come over and chat. By birth a lyonnais, he is, therefore, down to earth, direct, and charmingly earthy.

Many of the items on the menu change in and out depending on the season and customer reaction. The famous DB Burger is of course a staple. The Tomato Tarte Tatin is a specialty of the house. Jarrod Verbiak, of Slovak and Hungarian background, is the Executive Chef. My chestnut orechiette (venison ragout) had a “foresty”, not “gamy” flavor. Absent was any trace of fibrous texture. The parmesan touch proved surprisingly consistent.

John Mayfield, the sommelier, uncorked a great S. Abin (Pierre Yves Colin Merey) to get us started followed by an unremarkable Chilean Monte Alpha for my venison. He treated us to a great Languedoc, Zumbai Tomasi, for my boeuf borguignon which spoke of French heartiness and subtlety. My choice for main course melted with its delicate texture, enhanced by the flavor of black truffle vinaigrette. I chose to accompany it with super green spinach and pomme frites.

The dessert creations envisioned by Jerome Maure vary from the French traditional to the South Florida creative. I opted for a Coup d’emperatrice, a coconut rice pudding on key lime and mango. DB Bistro Moderne Miami, consistent with its location, offers a number of variations on the theme of dulce de leche (Coup dulce de leche).

There is historically a great affinity in France for Tokaji (Tokaj). Louis XIV was given a bottle by Francis Rákóczi II, Prince of Transylvania, and it was served at Versailles. When Louis XV offered a glass to Mme. De Pompadour, he referred to the libation as “Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum.” We, of lesser rank, were offered two types: Oremus and, of longer fermentation, Disznoko Aszu 5 Puttonyos, a veritable classic. Mayfield set us on a change of pace from ports, Calvados XO (DB Bistro Moderne owns a Menorval XO) a good Armagnac VSOP, or a cognac like the Jean Grosperrin XO that Boulud keeps with pride in Miami.

There is a Miami zoological male specimen prone to wear shirts embroidered with lace and other materials over jeans appliquéd with shiny beading. They are as loud as their minimally dressed and heavily produced female companions. Some have, amazingly, found their way to DB Bistro Moderne and their howls, yowls, oinks, and gibbers make civilized conversation impossible. The general manager, meets polite folk, the city’s faux, Latina hyenas, Miami Housewives, and city royalty like the Estefans feel welcome and special.

Of the Boulud brands, the Miami Bistro Moderne is the more appropriate business decision to introduce a city in tune with frijoles negros, ceviche and rodisio to the world of one of the masters of French haute cuisine.

Miami’s Fake Princess Now Divorced from Greenberg Traurig Partner. Real Emperor Dies in Paris


The marriage of Thi Nga Goldman (TiNa, her childhood name in Chatelet) to Miami lawyer Steven Goldman has ended. Court records indicate that the partner at Greenberg Traurig has filed for divorce.
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While the divorce of the faux Imperial Highness was finalized (a Miami Beach created by Ana Remos, Selecta Magazine and the Bass Museum), the death of His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Bao Long, eldest son and heir of the late Emperor Bao Dai, last Emperor of Vietnam, titular head of the Nguyen Dynasty, was announced in Paris.

In the press release made public by the royal family, Mrs. Goldman is obviously absent:

The Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam

HIH Crown Prince Bao Long, the eldest son and heir of of the late Emperor Bao Dai, the last monarch of Vietnam, died in Paris on 28 July 2007 at the age of 71.

Prince Nguyen-Phuc Bao Long was born at the Kien-Trung Palace in the Purple Forbidden City, Hue, on 4 January 1936, eldest son of Emperor Bao Dai by his first wife, Empress Nam Phuong. He was educated in Vietnam and France, and underwent military training at the École Militaire de St Cyr (Coëtquidan, France) and the École d’Instruction de la Cavalerie et de l’Artillerie (Saumur, France).
Appointed as Heir Apparent with the style of Dong-Cung Hoang-Thai Tu, 17th September 1938, the Prince was invested in an elaborate Mandarin ceremony at the Palace of Can-Chanh, in the Purple Forbidden City, Hue, on 7 March 1939. Granted the style of His Imperial Highness on 18 June 1945, he came of age and was confirmed as Heir Apparent on 15 June 1954. The Prince represented Vietnam at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey, in London on 2 June 1953.
The Prince was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Armoured Cavalry Regiment of the French Foreign Legion on 14 July 1955, served in Algeria 1955-1958, retiring as Captain in 1958. Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment of Musketeers, 1949; Honorary Colonel of Imperial Guard, Vietnamese Army. He received the Kim Boi medal 1st class, Grand Cordon of the National Order of Merit of Vietnam (15 June 1954), the Order of the Legion of Honour, the Cross of Military Valour with red, silver and bronze stars (1958), France’s North Africa Medal (1997) and the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal (1953).
The Prince retired from a long career in investment banking and lived quietly for most of his adult life in London and Paris. He succeeded on the death of his father as Head of the Imperial House of Vietnam and Sovereign of the Imperial Orders on 31 July 1997.

The following email is received from a friend of Thi Nga Goldman’s family who previously submitted a comment to this site:

We have met all the family in their Chatelet Vietnamese restaurant in Paris.

The person adds:
We are friends of Ung Thi family , the VN restaurant in Place Chatelet is closed now , our son Ng Khoi was working there when he was a student for Sup Aero and Space ENSAE. It’s possible that there is a confusion of Ung Thi ‘s name , from our side we are certain that our friend Ung Thi is the father of Thi Nga (her child nick name was “TiNa”).

On September 3rd he adds:
You know better than me about some aspects of Ung Thi’s family and the big royal family of Bao Dai . I think you are right about some results of your reseach , HIH is not a correct title for Thi Nga . I am sure there are only 2 HIH princesses daughters of Bao Dai and Nam Phuong: Phuong Mai and Phuong Lien (one was working in a Hong Kong bank , the other was married to the French pilot of Bao Dai and divorced later on) . I have some difficulties to find the name of Ung Thi’s restaurant. I ‘ll try again with our friend Dieu Hy, (daughter of Vinh Du , a royal cousin ) after her summer holidays in Pyrenee until 15 /09/08 . I can tell you now that Thi Nga has two sisters and two brothers. I am trying to have some news from them.

Enigma From Barcelona: Who is Lucrecia?



She is gradually becoming a recognized presence in U.S. stages. Kathleen Battle meets Sade and sings boleros as “lieder.” A version of the following article appeared in Media3 publications.

For the second year in a row, Cuban-Catalan diva Lucrecia, has peeked the interest of the American music world. During the most recent installment of Festival Miami, jazz critics, the Hispanic press, and loyal fans jammed the University of Miami’s Gusman Hall for a bolero recital.

Lucrecia turned the bolero into an art song (lied, canzone d’arte). William Hipp, dean of the School of Music recognized in the singer “a privileged voice and great musical intelligence.”

After her U.S. debut with celebrated saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, Lucrecia was noticeably absent from the American music scene. She was consolidating her Spanish career especially on TVE (Television Espanola), recording for Warner Records and working on the documentary Balseros. The Academy-Award nominated soundtrack “La noche de la iguana” would jump-start her career internationally.

In the context of an exclusive gala, the singer packed Coral Gables Merrick Park surprising and delighting an audience that included pop mega star Gloria Estefan and Pedro Knight, widower of the legendary Celia Cruz. The media in singing her praises declared her the “successor of Celia Cruz.” A cautious Lucrecia declared: “I do not want to be typecast within an established parameter.”

In a coup, the diva returned to Florida this year to perform accompanied by renowned jazz pianist Michel Camilo. She was again invited to the annual “Voices for Children” benefit. By now a South Florida household name, loved by Hispanic radio stations, she sang at “Carnaval de la Calle Ocho.” These various contexts and challenges established her musical versatility.

Lucrecia is a well known figure in Spanish television. Her recently published children’s book proved a successful venture. A soon to be released CD has her performing with international musical luminaries.

The Barcelona singer had already entered the realm of the bolero in a live recorded performance. It was her Festival Miami recital’s fresh and stylized approach to the genre that proved of great impact to serious jazz critics and the specialized press. Accompanied by Michel Fragoso, the singer offered a streamlined yet bold reading of the staples “Tu no sabes nada” and “La gloria eres tu.” Her penchant for boleros-turned-lieder reaffirms the diva’s often used characterization: “Kathleen Battle meets Sade.”

Nostalgia and Cuban Interiors


cubanelegance.jpgNostalgia and Cuban Colonial Interiors

Now that everything is hypertrophic, made to the measure of the prehistoric buffalo or the mammoth, let us turn back to the numbers of delight, the beautiful measure and proportion, the response to the caress of the hand that Havana still reaches.
Jose Lezama Lima, November, 1949

Cuba is a sure source of bestsellers and lovely coffee table books. The Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon has transcended music and mojitos into a generalized Cubanophilia. Travel restrictions, the interest in architecture and an exotic environment that seems frozen in time pique the curiosity of Western photographers, artists, historians, journalists and critics

A survey of bookstores reveals that there are, in large format, an average of 35 readily available titles (in English and Spanish). One of the latest arrivals is Michael Connors’ Cuban Elegance (Abrams). The book follows the pattern established by Llilian Llanes in The Houses of Old Cuba (Thames & Hudson, 1999) and Maria Luisa Lobo y Montalvo’s Havana: History and Architecture of a Romantic City, as well as the illustrated architectural history monographs by Eduardo Luis Rodr iguez .

Magnificently photographed and designed, Cuban Elegance affords a glimpse into Cuban interiors from Colonial times to the 20th century. Michael Connors, a New York University graduate and antiques marchand, is best when confining himself to his metier: furniture and design. The book provides some memorable inaccuracies and oversimplifications. ”Finally, many exiles fled from Saint Domingue [now Haiti] to Cuba, particularly to the neighborhood of Santiago, but also to other places in the island.” Does Connors mean to the neighboring city of Santiago de Cuba?

Cuba was a leading source of mahogany for English furniture makers during the 18th century but Connors glosses over the possibility of a Cuban influence in carving techniques and styles over Sheraton and Hepplewhite. He does address the possible Cuban influence — from 1740s sacristy chests — in block front New England chests. His discussion of the development of roperos and Cuban versions of planter’s chairs is indeed enlightening.

The reader is left thirsty for a lengthier analysis of the “sillon” or “balance” (rocking chairs) that Connors traces to the 1830s as a North American import. Things Cuban, even in the arts, entail a political dimension. Many of the environments that so mystify the author may well be reconstructions or approximate reconfigurations of the original milieus. The only exception may be the Museo Napoleonico, Julio Lobo’s collection where Natalia Bolivar may have played a role in the preservation of the collection and the interiors.

Any person concerned with history and a certain sense of accuracy must keep in mind that during the 1960s the contents of most mansions and palaces ended up in the warehouses of the Fondo de Bienes Culturales (Institute for Cultural Resources) and redistributed to the houses of the new government elite, foreign embassies, official government residences, or sold for hard currency in auction houses. The office of the city historian, Eusebio Leal, has had access to the inventories of things taken from these houses. Not even the resourceful Leal can undo the systematic sale and abuse of the national heritage of which art experts have accused the Cuban government. The book is a wonderful alternative to the trite compendia of neocolonial photographs of jineteras (Havana call girls) leaning against dilapidated buildings or skimpily dressed youths contorting their bodies to the music of Los Van Van. It is a hymn to the sense of quiet grandeur, measure and proportion that so enthralled Lezama Lima. Connors deserves credit for going where others fear to tread: the exploration of the European subtext in Cuban culture.

Art critic and historian Justo J. Sanchez has taught art history at Miami-Dade College and the New World School of the Arts